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New Catholic Impetus to Ecumenism

Pope PaulReligious observers are noticing with surprise the increased Roman Catholic initiatives in the ecumenical field. In harmony with recent Vatican policies to foster ecumenical accord, a growing number of statements and actions are being made these days. This plan stems from the Vatican II Council decisions to eliminate "the scandal of Christian disunity" and foster and finally achieve the unity among His people for which Christ prayed.

Notable among the evidences of Catholic activity in this direction are the following pronouncements and actions:

Pope Paul: In 1972 the pope proclaimed that the worldwide cause of Christian unity is being menaced by divisions within the Roman Catholic Church. He told a delegation of the Russian Orthodox patriarchate of Moscow that Catholic and Orthodox Christians share a common faith which they are obliged to preserve, understand and transmit to future generations.

Cardinal Jan Willebrands: President of the Vatican Secretariat for Christian Unity, Cardinal Willebrands pronounced that he saw a number of significant developments in progress toward Christian unity during 1971. He cited the following areas of contact and exchange which gave reason for his optimistic comment:

• Exchange of correspondence between Pope Paul and Greek Orthodox Patriarch Athenagoras I of Constantinople, which stressed the need for the growth of a truly brotherly attitude in both communities so that one day they might "communicate together with the same chalice of the Lord."

• Official visits to the Orthodox churches of Greece and Crete, as well as attendance at the synod of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow.

• Completion of the Catholic-Lutheran joint commission report on the theme of "The Gospel and the Church."

• First series of Catholic-Methodist conversations held on the problems of Christian spirituality, the Eucharist, matrimony and the Christian family.

• Conversations with the World Reform Alliance on the subject of "The Presence of Christ in the Church and in the World."

• The substantial agreement regarding the doctrine of the Eucharist reached by the International Joint Commission of Catholics and Anglicans.

Archbishop Michael Ramsay: The Franciscan Friars of the Atonement presented the Christian Unity Award to Archbishop Ramsay, primate of all England, titular head of the Anglican Communion at Graymoor. Archbishop Ramsay had just returned from his United States visit, during which he preached in St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Cathedral in New York.

Dr. Eugene Carson Blake: A historic ecumenical service was held February 20, 1972 in St. Patrick's Cathedral in Sydney, Australia, when world church leaders gathered to inaugurate the Year of Renewal. Dr. Carson Blake, the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, was the preacher. Among heads of churches present at the service were Bishop Karekin Sarkissian of the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church, Lebanon; Dr. Frank Woods, Anglican Archbishop of Melbourne; and Right Rev. William Morgan, the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Victoria. At the Service of Renewal a new Eucharistic prayer was used for the first time.

Melbourne Parish Action Commences: The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne, Australia, has launched its parish action weeks for each of its churches. Ecumenical services are included in the program. The first parish to begin the "Action Week" was the Holy Name Parish, East Preston, whose ecumenical service was held before a combined congregation of Catholic, Anglican, Church of Christ, Methodist, Presbyterian and Salvation Army personnel. The Catholic Advocate of February 17 reports the meeting thus: "Accompanied by music from the Salvation Army Band, all the churches represented joined in a dramatized farce on ecumenism – showing how they could (after a long history of ecumenical co-operation in the East Preston area) laugh at the many small things that were once a great stumbling block to unity."